Thursday, May 31, 2012

Batman Display at the Library

Cardwell Vaughn is displaying selections from his Batman collection at the library through the end of June.  Vaughn started collecting Batmobiles in 1998.  His collection has expanded to include artwork, books, statues and figures.  The exhibit includes Batmobiles, Batman and Robin, Batman artwork, cards, books and even the villain Bane.  

The Dark Knight of Gotham City first appeared in issue #27 of Detective Comics in 1939.  Over the years, he has been drawn by a number of different artists. Batman & Robin have been featured in comic books, graphic novels, merchandise and movies, and their adventures have taken place in the past, present and future.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Decoration Day by H.W. Longfellow

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.
But in this Camp of Death

No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath.
No wound that bleeds and aches.
All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;

The shouts of battle cease,
It is the truce of God!
Flag on my front porch
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep

Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been.
The memory shall be ours.

 Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. “Decoration Day.” Columbia Granger's World of Poetry Online. 2012. Columbia University Press. 28 May. 2012. .
I found this poem by typing "Memorial Day" into the search box of 'Columbia Grangers World of Poetry', an online poetry resource available from the library's "Databases and Articles" page. In the U.S., Memorial Day was commonly called 'Decoration Day' until 1967. Searching Grangers yielded 70 poems, many full text. 
Watching '60 Minutes' tribute "Honoring Our Soldiers" last night put a human face on the wars the U.S. is waging now.  As the young soldiers struggled to describe their experiences, I thought about how poets, artists and authors have also attempted to express the feelings that wars evoke.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Inspector Morse

It's hard to believe that it's been 13 years since the last book was published in Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series - and 12 years since the TV episodes wrapped up. This summer, Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS will air a prequel, in which Morse is only a constable.  Readers who had to read the series for years and years in order to discover Morse's first name will be shocked - shocked! - to discover that the prequel has been given Morse's first name.  There's also an ongoing TV spinoff, Inspector Lewis, featuring Morse's former sergeant.

In case you are a bit late to the Morse mysteries, like me, they are set in Oxford, England. So the colleges of Oxford University and their students and dons are often involved.  Readers get to know the pubs of Oxford well too, since Morse, a bachelor, is quite a drinker.  He is good at crossword puzzles, loves opera and attended Oxford for a while, but otherwise his past is a mystery. As aforementioned, we didn't even know his first name.  The mysteries are also enjoyable for their very tight plotting.  I listened to The Daughters of Cain audiobook, downloaded from

Monday, May 21, 2012

New App for Audiobooks

If you are a Berkeley Heights resident with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, the library's audiobook service OneClickdigital has launched an app just for you.  (Android owners can find audiobook solace in the Overdrive Media Console app at instead.)

1.      Go to Create your account (top right corner).

2.      Download the OneClickDigital app from the App Store.

3.      Log in to the app with the account you created in step 1.

4.      Tap “Browse Titles” to browse new titles or search for a title. Tap a book to select it.

5.      Tap “Check Out” (if you only see “Wish List” this means the book is checked out to someone else). The app will download the book.

6.      Press the + symbol after you pause the player to bookmark your place.  (Kind of a big deal since you don't want the audiobook to start at the beginning the next time.)

The fine print:

You can check out a max of 10 titles.  Audiobooks check out for 21 days or less, your choice. Oneclickdigital does not allow holds to be placed on unavailable titles but you can place them on a "Wish List".

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bill Cunningham New York

Bill Cunningham New York is the documentary about the octogenarian photographer you may know from his weekly feature in the New York Times, On the Street.  Cunningham is a very private person and it took the filmmakers years to get him to agree to the documentary.  In the 1950 he was a milliner to stars like Joan Crawford.

In the 60s, after women stopped wearing hats, and a friend gave him a camera, Cunningham started taking photos of people in public in New York.  He's saved the negatives of all of his photos in the filing cabinets that fill his one-room apartment in Carnegie Hall.

Cunningham rides a bicycle to get around New York. He rides without a helmet, at night and in the rain, often snapping photos at the same time, and this fearlessness is one of the freedoms that living an unconventional (and by American standards, monkish) life has given him.  Having his bike stolen 28 times hasn't stopped him, either: he's on his 29th.  You can place a hold on the DVD here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

History and the Knitting Bishop

Richard Rutt (1925-2011) was the former bishop of Leicester in the U.K. "The Knitting Bishop," as Serenity Knitting called him, was taught to knit by his grandfather, the village blacksmith. Rutt was a missionary in Korea for 20 years, where he lacked yarn for knitting and took up Asian history instead.  Once back in England, he started knitting again and even knitted his own miter (the pointy hat bishops wear).  His book A History of Hand Knitting was published in 1987.

 Robert Havell's engraving of Wensleydale Knitters in George Walker's book The Costume of Yorkshire, 1814. This is the jacket illustration of A History of Hand Knitting.

A History of Hand Knitting has many interesting tidbits of history in it. Did you know there are methods of making fabric structures that are more ancient than knitting: nalbinding and sprang?  If your friends think you are geeky for knitting, wait until you tell them you've taken up nalbinding.

Then there's the legend about shipwrecked sailors from the Spanish Armada teaching the people of Fair Isle (off the coast of Scotland) how to knit with more than one color at a time. It's unlikely that the technique was learned from sailors, but still interesting to wonder what passed between the 17 native families and the 300 sailors of the ship El Gran Grifon who were, in fact, stuck on Fair Isle for 6 weeks.

I also liked hearing about all the literary references to knitting in literature: Shakespeare's Gentlemen of Verona, Tolstoy's War and Peace, Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Daniel deFoe's The Life and Adventures of Captain Robert Singleton, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.  Knitting appears in art, as well: check out the Knitting Madonnas set of photos on Flickr, some of which also appear in the book.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This atmospheric fantasy novel for adults is thin on plot and character but rich in setting: a monochromatic circus that travels all over the world and opens at midnight. The two protagonists, Marco and Celia, are both called magicians, but they are obviously performing something deeper than sleight-of-hand. As young students, their teachers - both practitioners of rival theories of magic - magically bound them together in a future duel, with the circus for a chessboard.

The book's video trailer describes some of the pleasures of the Night Circus tents, which are a feast for the senses and the high point of the book for me. The next best thing to the Night Circus's Cloud Maze tent is the Cloud City art installation that is going up on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art this summer.

There are a lot of comparisons to Harry Potter, but I think they're superficial. It's a fantasy novel, the movies (the Night Circus movie is in development) will share the same producer, and they even have the same audiobook narrator, Jim Dale. Just as HP fans could dress up as Hufflepuffs or Gryffindors, Night Circus fans called Rêveurs wear black and white (with a touch of red to set themselves apart from the circus performers).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Business Appreciation Night at the Library

The library held a business appreciation night last night. Attendees included Lori Cicali of Allstate Insurance, Jennifer Critelli and Diane Wilverding of Berkeley Heights Nursing and Rehab, Jim DiMaio of Derco Office Solutions, Marcella Gencarelli of Hilltop Community Bank, Etya Novik of Respira Salt Wellness Center, Julianne Simmons of Investors Bank, Mike Shapiro of the Alternative Press, and Midge Vicendese of Berkeley Hardware. Stephanie Bakos, the library director, presented Pam Steiner of the Rotary Club a certificate of appreciation. The Rotary Club raised funds for the library's new meeting room carpet with one of its Pancake Breakfasts. Also present were members of the library's board of trustees, Sheila Buthe, Hope Danzis, Karin Miller and Naomi Rizzuti.

Head of reference Anne deFuria presented resources of interest to businesses. One example is ReferenceUSA, whose business directory and database of new homeowners/movers can help businesses find new customers. Her slideshow can be viewed here. Reference librarian Ellen Zander demonstrated downloading library ebooks to a Kindle, and how the library app lets you search databases such as Business Source Premier using a phone or tablet.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Circumlocution Office

The Circumlocution Office invented by Charles Dickens in Little Dorrit, is described in Chapter Ten,

"The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being
told) the most important Department under Government. No public
business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the
acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the
largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was
equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the
plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution
Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour
before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified
in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of
boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official
memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence,
on the part of the Circumlocution Office."

Dickens goes on to describe this fictional government office,

" Whatever
was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand
with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--HOW NOT

Thank you to our patron who is reading his way through the works of Charles Dickens for calling this government office to our attention.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Civil War Living History: the 43d NY Volunteer Infantry's Visit

The 43d New York Volunteer Infantry set up a Sibley tent behind the library this past Saturday afternoon and presented a Civil War Living History program.

The 43d is a nonprofit, educational reenactment and living history organization that has participated in programs across the eastern United States.

Patrons who stopped by got to see period uniforms, tents and weapons.

The most exciting part of the program was the musket firing. They shot blanks, of course!

Read more about it, and check out the photo of the musket firing, at TheAlternativePress.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

The library had a wait list for Game Change when it came out in 2010 and the buzz at the library was that it was full of juicy details about John Edwards - his affair with Rielle Hunter and reports of megalomania.  More people were checking out the book again this March when HBO released the movie version, and this time the focus turned to a different failed vice-presidential candidate: Sarah Palin.  The movie covers the last quarter of the book and Palin suffers without the attention the book paid to the nuttiness of other candidates and their loved ones.  I just finished the book recently, alternating between boredom  -  there's a lot of meetings, speeches and fundraising - and amazement over how much the past presidential election resembled a reality TV show. Game Change is fertile ground for negative campaign ads for both candidates in this fall's presidential election, and maybe even 2016.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Snow Globes and Other Collections

Celebrating Snow Globes by Nina Chertoff and Susan Kahn is a book about the size of your hand but it is filled with an entire world of snow globes.  Books about collections are better than the real thing: no dusting is required, and when you get tired of it you can return it to the library.  Here are only a few of the bright shiny things that can be collected and read about: rocks, teapots, carnival glass, snow globes, fluorescent minerals and girls' series books.

Other kinds of collections you can read about at the library: PEZ dispensers (sometimes they even come inside snow globes!), glass bells, Lladro figurines, boys' series books, board games, Disneyana, buffalo nickels and surfboards.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The morning book group will discuss The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver on Friday, May 4 at 10:30 a.m. The publisher describes the plot of the first half of the book:
Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

The Lacuna is the best book I've read since The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Out Stealing Horses. But I have run into a few book group members who are having a hard time getting into the book. My advice is to keep with it at least till you get to Mexico City - once Harrison met Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo I couldn't stop reading. The ending is sublime; as the reviewer from the San Francisco Chronicle put it, "The final pages haunt me still."

There is an excellent interview with the author about The Lacuna at her web site - did you know that hardboiled mystery writer Dashiell Hammett was persecuted as a Communist?

Discussion questions for The Lacuna are available at ReadingGroupGuides and LitLovers.